Lush Gets Nakedly Candid About Sustainability

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By: Casha Doemland

It doesn't matter if you've just worked a 70-hour week, trained for a marathon or just walked from your couch to the fridge and back, everyone deserves a night of pampering and self-love equipped with lip scrubs, face masks, and bath bombs.

But, you don’t want just any bath bomb. You want Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics' totally vegan and 100% packaging-free bath bombs because they're great for you and the environment. Some even support marine life and reduction of plastic waste like the Turtle bath bomb.

This eco-friendly company is currently doubling down on sustainable packaging and has even launched a package-free store dedicated to ensuring their beloved products do not create a lasting impact on the planet.

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"When designing packaging, the first question we ask is, do we need it?" says Lee Carpenter, Senior Buyer at Lush. "Around half of our products can be purchased naked— without packaging—from our stores, allowing us to reduce our use of packaging materials drastically. If packaging is unavoidable, we prefer to use recycled materials – currently, 90% of our packaging is manufactured from 100% post-consumer recycled waste."

The first piece of packaging is a Knot Wrap, made from either post-consumer recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) or organic cotton,  both of which can be reused as a headband, scarf or even re-gifted to a friend.

"Using this waste (rPET) rather than virgin plastic reduces energy consumption, conserves petroleum-based resources and keeps used plastics from entering the environment," states Carpenter. "Organic cotton supports a cleaner and healthier way of agriculture not only for farmers, but for the land as well. Using natural pesticides like chili, onion extract and garlic stops the farmers from using harmful chemical pesticides and achieves the same yields, if not better."

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For products that cannot be package-free like body lotion, Lush uses rPET bottles, which can be recycled through standard curbside recycling, or 100% post-consumer recycled polypropylene (PP) pots, which have a closed-loop recycling program within the company to make up for its low recycling rates.

“Our 'bring back' scheme allows customers to return five clean PP pots and lids to stores and claim a free facemask product," shares Carpenter. "The pots and lids are then collected from stores in the same vehicles that deliver fresh products and returned to our own recycling facility in Poole, Dorset. Once at the Green Hub in Poole, the pots and lids are granulated (cut into small pieces), washed and dried. From there, they are sent to a recycling partner for processing into pellets before being used as an injection for the pots and lids."

The remaining packaging used for mail orders is packaged in 100% biodegradable cellulose film and shipped with Eco Flo, a loose fill material made of starch that is also biodegradable and compostable in both industrial and home composting.

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Additionally, Lush is currently in the process of creating more packaging that rids the company of plastic in favor of a more fiber-based material, that leaves no trace.

Of course, they’re taking one step further into the green zone with the launch of the first naked store in Milan, Italy. No, it doesn't mean the sales associates are selling products with just an apron and smile on —although that did happen in the US last year. Instead, it means zero packaging for every single product in the store.

"Milan is one of the best cities for recycling and waste management, so it's a good place to start," says Charlotte Nisbett, Lush project manager. "We also felt Milan is a city where people look for the future – for example, the future of fashion – and we think plastic-free is the future."

The fragile naked products ship in the same molds they're produced in, which prevents packaging from being required - Lush keeps it naked from production to purchase.

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Since the products are package-free, Lush's new in-house R&D team developed the Lush Lens App which allows shoppers to scan the product with their smartphone and receive all the information from ingredients to use in seconds.

The app is currently on trial in the Milan Naked shop and running exclusively on Fairphone devices provided in the store.  According to Elmwood, “the Lush Lens software is powered by Tensorflow, Google's powerful open source machine learning API.”

By trialing this technology, Lush not only strives to engage digitally-minded consumers but is shifting towards the elimination of extraneous packaging.

"Technology doesn't have to be unethical. We believe tech can be built for the greater good and impact positive social change," said Jack Constantine, LUSH CDO in a press release. Lush hopes to roll out the Lush Lens App internationally in the coming future.

If that wasn't enough to make you a bonafide Lush fan, the Naked Shop also hosts events to educate and inform.

"We scheduled events following five main themes with a different one every three weeks," says Maria Bruschi, Lush PR Manager Italy. "In June, the conversation was mainly about the sea— sea pollution, sea plastics, sea animals, ocean conservation with the peak of the discussion on June 8th for World Ocean Day. At the end, we started the discussion around zero waste. Opening weekend, the theme was mainly dedicated to driving conversation around the main timeline 'Less Plastic, More Lush."

Between the in-house recycling program, biodegradable packaging and the first official naked store,  Lush is making great strides in reducing their plastic-waste footprint without compromising the quality of the products customers know and love. No wonder there are so many #lushies out there.

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Casha Doemland

LA-based and Georgia-bred, Casha Doemland spends her days crafting poetry and freelance writing. Over the last two years, she’s been published in a variety of publications and zines around the world. When she’s not nerding out with words, you can catch her watching a classic film, trekking around the globe or hanging out with a four-pound Pomeranian.